Monday, April 1, 2013

“The Host” – Step away from the Twilight.

When we walked into the theater for the screening of The Host, we passed a bunch of people that were offering to do people’s makeup and hair. Come to find out, this was part of a marketing promotion related to the screening and they were asking people if they were “Team Human” or “Team Host.” It was bad enough when they tried this stupid marketing ploy with The Hunger Games, but this is just getting ridiculous. Not only is this a short-sighted marketing move that will alienate males, but it’s a bad attempt at lumping two movies together that are not similar in any way simply because they have the same author. I know Hollywood thinks the tween crowd is about as perceptive as a lawn ornament, but even they aren’t that stupid.

I know it’s inevitable that people will compare The Host with Twilight, but we’re talking apples and oranges here. Would you ever try to do this with Stephen King novels, like It and The Dark Tower? Of course not, but it’s going to happen here because Hollywood is trying to figure out how to keep the legions of tween girls in the theater and what better way than pigeonholing Stephenie Meyer’s latest book as more of the same? The problem is that The Host isn’t really going to appeal to those girls (or the legions of adult women, for that matter) because it’s not a love story like Twilight (honestly, what is?). And don’t try to convince me that there’s more to Twilight than just a love story because everything else (like the Volturi) is a very distant second.

Twilight appeals to women because women fantasize about relationships (or just sex) with supernatural men. Think about it for a second; who was the person in high school that every girl wanted? Exactly - the quarterback, i.e. the closest thing to a supernatural being in high school. The Host simply doesn’t have this, so every woman who is buying into the “from the author of Twilight hype” is going to be disappointed when they watch it. While The Host does have a romance element, it’s not the main plot and nobody is trying to have sex with a vampire.

The Host takes place in a future where an alien race has invaded the Earth and occupies the bodies of almost every human. They have also fixed the ills of human society, ridding the world of such things as poverty, pollution, and war. So, when you think about it, they’re better humans than most of us. The main character is Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), a human who is captured and whose body is taken over by a host known as Wanderer. Unfortunately for Wanderer, Melanie isn’t ready to give up her body, so the two of them share Melanie’s body and converse with each other inside her head. This is easily the best part of the film since you get to experience the battle that is going on between the two of them.

Another host known as The Seeker (Diane Kruger) interrogates Wanderer, who can access Melanie’s memories, for information on the whereabouts of a band of non-hosted humans. Eventually, Wanderer starts to feel a sort of kinship with Melanie and stops providing Seeker with information. When Seeker tells Wanderer that they will be removing her from the body, Wanderer runs away with Melanie guiding her toward her uncle’s cabin in the desert. Her uncle Jeb (William Hurt) finds her near death and takes her back to his hideout in a giant cavern. There, she discovers the group of humans Seeker is looking for, including her brother Jamie and boyfriend Jared (Max Irons). The rest of the movie is the real plot – how an alien copes with her new surroundings while trying to fit in with the group and be accepted as one of their own. It’s a story of the different facets of humanity and questions whether the human race is capable of change on a global scale. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of Twilight.

The strength of the movie lies in Melanie/Wanderer and Jeb. Hurt and Ronan are excellent in their roles and keep the movie from being a bore. The film also does a very good job of using the two to address the societal topics without being heavy-handed about it. Ronan is especially good, not only as Wanderer, but in bringing depth to Melanie, who is basically a voice. The weakness in the movie is that it needs to be at least two hours longer to really develop the relationships of the people in the group, as well as some of the secondary characters. There simply isn’t enough time to do much more than scratch the surface of people that are much more interesting in the book. However, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing since Melanie and Wanderer are the characters we truly care about.

When the movie was over, I found that I had liked it quite a bit more than when I read the book. Maybe it’s because I had seen G.I. Joe: Retaliation the night before (which makes any other movie look like an Oscar winner), maybe it’s because the person reading the audiobook version that I listened to was awful, or maybe it’s just because I cut science fiction movies a small amount of slack. One complaint I heard was that it was much slower than the previews indicated (definitely true), but I thought the pacing was actually pretty good. Regardless, I thought it was a competent movie with some subtle indictments of humanity and a few very likeable characters. At the very least, it beat watching a werewolf trying to have sex with a human who is in love with a vampire.

Rating: Ask for one dollar back and go read (and I do mean read) the book.

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